IBM's New EJB Platform

Finally, Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) is available on an IBM development platform. The AS/400-enabled version of WebSphere 3.0, released at the end of October, includes EJB support, as well as enhancements targeted at large, high-transaction Web server sites.

IBM first unveiled a broad set of EJB-related plans for its WebSphere family a year ago, positioning EJB technology as the integration engine for disparate business systems--such as databases and transaction processing systems--and extend them to the Web. WebSphere's Enterprise Edition is targeted at sites that expect to handle millions of transactions per day, says John Swainson, GM of application and integration middleware with IBM's software group. He notes that while IBM is on its third release of Web application tools, many competitors haven't even released their first version yet. In addition, IBM announced that Version 3.0 of WebSphere now links to its VisualAge for Java development toolset.

The new versions of WebSphere and VisualAge for Java are based on open standards such as servlets, Java Server Pages, XML and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs). This enables businesses to integrate disparate IT systems--such as databases from multiple vendors or applications built on different operating systems or platforms--and extend them to the Web.

This increased integration between VisualAge for Java and WebSphere Studio "enables developers to create and deploy EJB-based applications seamlessly from a testing environment," says Swainson. "A programmer can sit inside VisualAge Java and actually debug an application that's running in a remote Websphere server." In addition, IBM increased the connectivity between WebSphere and VA Java through XML. WebSphere Enterprise also integrates with other IBM products, such as DB2, MQSeries and Lotus Domino, Swainson continues.

While IBM continues to bet its business on Java, the company admits that progress has been slower than expected with Java as a ubiquitous programming language. "Java is probably not moving at the pace that we thought it would at the beginning of last year in terms of market dominance," says Tom Jarosh, GM of the AS/400 division. "But that's where the market is heading. We're continuing to invest in Visual RPG, but the power of Java can't be beat. There's lots of evidence now which proves how easy it is to move Java onto the AS/400." He adds that 45,000 AS/400 customers are now committed to Java application development. These enhancements bring application development in line with that of other platforms, says Malcolm Haines, AS/400 marketing manager. "There's now about a million Java programmers in the world. That means there's one million AS/400 programmers, they just don't know it."

The latest Enterprise Edition of Websphere includes transaction processing power from IBM's TXSeries and the application integration capabilities of IBM's Component Broker. IBM has also been incorporating WebSphere technology and supported industry standards (e.g. XML, Java) into the features and functionality of IBM Net.Commerce and IBM Payment Suite. WebSphere will be the tool and Web application server foundation for these products. This will allow customers to evolve to the industry's most current standards and leading middleware while protecting their current IT investments in today's most successful e-commerce sites. Future releases of Net.Commerce and IBM Payment Suite will be renamed under the WebSphere brand. Ultimately, WebSphere Commerce Suite customers will realize reduced operational costs, improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability from their e-commerce transactions.

"The bar has definitely been raised for e-business," says David Kelly, VP of application strategy service, Hurwitz Group (Boston). "Businesses are being challenged to respond in a very different way than they might have two or three years ago. We're telling our clients that they quickly need to transform themselves into e-tailors to be able to move their market into where the action is.

"On the development tools side, most organizations are no longer making an individual tools decisions. It's not enough to pick a Java IDE or Visual C++ or make a language decision--it's more of an infrastructure decision," he adds. "Looking for correct middleware, correct development tools, a correct runtime platform that is going to enable them as an e-businesses. It's critical to be able to change your business on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis."